Post Mortem

Let the right slogans ring out on campuses

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 1/14/2020 11:32:25 AM IST

 Last Monday, IIT Madras convened a press conference to announce Saarang, the annual cultural festival of the campus. A few hours before the scheduled conference, however, the organisers called it off. The reason: A group of students were planning a rally condemning the attack on JNU students by masked goons the previous day. The IIT authorities clearly didn’t want reporters or photographers to be on the campus when the rally was taken out, let alone record the protest. Virtually every newspaper had photographs and reports of the protest the next day.

I never understand the paranoia exhibited by the administrators of some of the premier educational institutions when their students react to political events. IITs are just an example; the phobia is more acute in other campuses. In fact, what scares me is a growing lack of political awareness on our campuses. I am not a fan of apolitical people, but neither do I have a problem with them. But when the system actively works to turn a generation into a politically inert battalion of superefficient professionals, it scares me like George Orwell’s ‘1984’.

Our problem is that we don’t want our children to be angry. And that’s because we refuse to distinguish between anger and violence. We try to ‘protect’ them from politics, because we confuse political awareness — and political reaction — with real politik that our politicians practise. The hilarious irony here is that many of the holier-than-thou administrators of our educational institutions are scared that politicians would be angry if students react to their politics.

And aren’t our children on these sanitised campuses angry? Well, yes. My son, a student of engineering, is legitimately angry at many things, Ronaldo not scoring being one of them. There are less lucky people whose children’s anger find violent outbursts. The nuisance on Chennai roads that goes by the name of ‘bus day’, and ‘route rowdies’ masquerading as students brandishing machetes are not by products of campus politics. They, in fact, could well be a result of lack of campus politics.

Forget the godman who preaches against the ills of anger (under that cunning smile is a set of grating teeth), our children need to get angry at the right things if they have to grow up to become responsible — and responsive — citizens. Anger is an inevitable emotion which, when tempered with reason and knowledge, can be productive. We shouldn’t let anger guide us to perpetual bitterness or violence, but we should respect it as a catalyst for debate, deliberation and course correction.

So, doesn’t campus politics lead to violence? It does, but that’s a bad excuse to quell political thought and action among students. We have seen some of the worst forms of violence on campuses without politics. Tamil Nadu, where political campuses have produced not just politicians but outstanding artists and scientists, are today apolitical. This barrenness provides a fertile ground for such ridiculous and dangerous pastimes as ‘bus day’.

Those who argue in favour of depoliticising JNU should look at the exhaustive list of its illustrious alumni that includes Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee (also on the list are foreign minister S Jaishankar and finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman). Presidency College, Chennai, which was once politically vibrant, produced two Nobel-winning scientists — C V Raman (1930) and S Chandrasekhar (1983), besides politicians like C Rajagopalachari.

Those in power, who themselves cut their political teeth on campuses, have enough reasons to be worried about politics on campuses which have been the cradles of just rebellions like the anti-Hindi agitations in Tamil Nadu. Emperors in new clothes should be scared to walk near campuses.

Arun Ram

 

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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